Reflections: Pentecost

There is something that I noticed the very first time I, as a protestant convert, read the lectionary readings for Pentecost Sunday. The Gospel is John 20:19-23 where Jesus breathes on the disciples and they receive the Holy Spirit as well as the sacramental authority to forgive sins. Reading this account prompted a paradigm shift in my understanding of both the sacraments and charismatic beliefs. Since the Gospel of St. John is my favorite book of the Bible I’m sure I had read the passage hundreds of times before and probably heard nearly as many sermons involving the passage. I do not recall now exactly what was said in those sermons but I can tell you that not one of them ever presented Jesus’ obvious intent. That would have prompted an interruption of the sermon and the speaker’s immediate expulsion from the building.

What broadened my perception is the part about Jesus breathing on them and saying, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” I realized that this type of action on the part of the third Person of the Trinity goes back as far as Genesis. The Old Testament refers quite often to the Spirit of the Lord being on or in various people. Before finding Joseph, Pharaoh asked, “Can we find such a one as this, a man in whom is the Spirit of God?” (Gen. 41:38) Another enlightening passage is in Numbers when, “(T)he LORD came down in the cloud, and spoke to him (Moses), and took of the Spirit that was upon him, and placed the same upon the seventy elders; and it happened, when the Spirit rested upon them, that they prophesied, although they never did so again.” (Num. 11:24-26) The historical books are rife with mentions of the Spirit coming on or over men of God who subsequently perform wondrous acts on behalf of God and His people. David, Samson, Othniel, Gideon, Jephthah to name just a few. Why even Saul, the first king of Israel who then squandered that blessing and lost his throne and ultimately his life was recipient of the Spirit of Lord. (1 Sam. 10)

The account of Pentecost in Acts chapter two is not an isolated event, it is another in a long line of wondrous acts performed by people of God under His influence and direction. Is it a special point in history? YES! More importantly, is it special to you? Have you surrendered yourself to God so fully that He is welcome and able to perform His will through you. Healings, resurrections speaking in other tongues may be spectacular displays of God’s power, however, always keep in mind that any act of charity and mercy you do, if done in love and obedience, is a wondrous act. As St. Paul says, “…one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills. (1 Cor. 12:11) We may not all be called to perform the spectacular but we are all called to love God and in so doing to love our neighbor.

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